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IBM, Motorola Execs Say RFID Is Key to Better World

RFID can be used to instrument social, economic and environmental changes globally, according to IBM's Martin Wildberger and Motorola's Jerry McNerney.
By Beth Bacheldor
Apr 30, 2009Radio frequency identification and other sensor technologies can do more than just improve business value—they have the potential to change the world. So say IBM's Martin Wildberger, a VP with the company's software group, and Jerry McNerney Motorola's VP of strategy and business development, speaking to attendees at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2009 conference, held this week in Orlando, Fla.

IBM has been championing the use of technology to support what it calls an age of a globally integrated and intelligent economy, society and planet. In support of that concept, the computer technology firm launched its Smarter Planet Initiative in 2008.

Martin Wildberger
"I have been coming to RFID Journal LIVE! for several years," Wildberger said. "In the beginning, the conversation was about the technology. The keynote addresses now focus on the business value. That's great. But if you look at what makes you happy at the end of the day, one of the things I've always been motivated by is the impact of our work on the world."

Wildberger challenged attendees to imagine all of the possibilities with RFID and other sensor technologies. "Often, we in this room see ourselves as leaders, and that we are pushing the envelope as to what this technology can do," he stated. "But our vision isn't grand enough."

Wildberger cited opportunities to leverage RFID and sensor technologies in food and cold chains, to improve product safety and reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses by enabling companies to track the location of goods in a supply chain, as well as temperature, humidity and other conditions. Wildberger said he's seen statistics indicating there are approximately 76 million cases of food-borne illnesses in the United States every year. "Up to 60 percent of produce and 75 percent of our seafood in the U.S. is imported," he added, "but only 1 percent of the food that crosses our borders is inspected."

In addition, Wildberger said, there are also enormous opportunities for RFID to increase patient safety and lower health-care costs, by facilitating electronic medical records systems, improving communications flows and tracking assets, patients and employees.

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